07 June 2008

This post is one that I brought over from "Keep the Rubber Side Down."

June 4th, 2008 by rick

Favorite brand of bike? Doesn't really matter although there are quite a few that I could never imagine owning personally.
Favorite color of bike? For most, I have no real preference, but I do prefer my Ducati's to be red if it's not a problem.
Do you always wear a helmet? Religiously, ATGATT.
Most miles ridden in a day? Somewhere around the 1200 mile mark. I've never really logged the exact mileage or time to the hour. Quite a few 24 hour marathon rides though.
Do you belong to a riding club? Nah, I'm one of those lone wolf types.
How many bikes do you personally own? Two, KLR650 and an XS11. There is probably a boxer somewhere in the near future.
Do you wave at passing bikers? I try to, but like Rick says, I hate getting dissed.
How many brand t-shirts do you own? No t-shirts, I'm more of a hat guy myself. Currently, I have a Ducati Corse, a BMW, and a classic logo Triumph lid.
Do people think you are obsessed with motorcycles? Pretty sure of that.
What is your favorite type of riding? Solo, long distance stuff. The more time spent on the bike, the better.
Do you have any riding superstitions? No, but my motorcycle riding form has always been very similar in posture and foot placement on the pegs to riding English on horses. I don't post on a motorcycle like I would on a horse. That would just confirm my insanity.

01 June 2008

Rainy Sunday Morning

I awoke this morning to a steady gentle rain. It must’ve been raining all night because when I let Flicka (my German Shepherd) out this morning, the ground was so soaked, that the water percolated up between her toes. She quickly did her business and had enough of that, trotting back into the house with her head down and ears laid back, carrying an annoyed look on her face.

I had taken Monday off this week so that I could score another three day weekend with the intentions of taking some day trips on the bike, the steady cadence of the rain falling on the skylight in my kitchen suggested that perhaps I should make other plans.

Walking out to the KLR, I pulled Don Quixote out of the saddle bag (The book that is, the saddle bags on the KLR are nowhere near large enough to stow a 17th century Spaniard) and took it back inside to read until the morning rain subsided. While lounging on the Sofa in the living room, the window slightly cracked so that I could take in the therapeutic effects that a softly falling rain has on me, I started thinking about Quixote’s horse, Rocinante.

Jeff Buchanan, in his essay in the April issue of Cycle World, christened his R1200GS “Rocinante” in honor of Quixote’s steed, and that is when the thought struck me, “Why not?” The translation of the book that I am reading is done by Tobias Smollet, and throughout the novel, he does a great job of marking footnotes on various translations and interpretations for simple minded types like myself. One such interpretation comes when Cervantes introduces to the reader, Don Quixote’s horse.

Cervantes describes that the animal was as gaunt as Gonela’s (Gonela was a well-known jester in the court of the Dukes of Ferrara.) and that he was tantum pellis et ossa fuit (A Latin phrase that translates as “Skin and Bones”). Quixote of course, saw him in an entirely different light.

Four days had passed that Quixote consumed in inventing a name for his remarkable steed. Four days of choosing, rejecting, amending and torturing himself with a revolving world of names, in his imagination, he fixed upon “Rocinante.” In Tobias Smollet’s translation, Rocinante combines two words, rocin (work horse) and antes (before), suggesting that Rocinante is past his prime but, as Smollet notes, once “ranked before all other horses.”

Once upon a time, on the opposite coast......

Some twenty years ago or so, where I was living and riding my sport bike all over the Eastern coast of the United States; I read an article in Motorcyclist magazine on a comparison of the various Dual Sports that were out at that time. If my memory serves me, it’s the same article that had a picture of the brand new ST1100 on it. Nick Ienatsch and Lance Holst did a comparison between the new Honda and the Kawasaki Councours, riding 1200 miles in 24 hours from L.A. to the Grand Canyon and back. I still have this issue somewhere in a box, I’ll have to dig it out and see if my memory is correct. Somewhere in the back of that issue was the comparison of the Dual-Sports. Let’s see ummm.... a Yamaha XT650, the Suzuki DR650S and DR350 and the two Kawasaki’s, the KLR650 and the Tengai.

Keeping a long story short, the KLR650 came out on top in that competition, squeaking out a victory over the Suzuki on the merits of it’s electric starter and that “Ship of the Desert” fuel tank. The KLR was my favorite too. For somebody with my inclination for riding ludicrous distances on a bike, that 6 gallon fuel tank was the perfect ticket. The fact that I was only 19 years old and couldn’t possibly afford another bike, I put that KLR on my wish list, promising myself that someday, when the time was right, I would buy one. Who would’ve thought the bike that I was so taken with due to its simplicity and willingness to please on such a basic level, would have such a model run. Almost twenty years later, I kept my promise to myself and bought one. Okay sure, Kawasaki made improvements to the wind protection, electronics, and brakes that KLR owners have been wishing for through the years, but all in all, at it’s heart, it’s still the same basic motorcycle that it was two decades ago. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Needless to say, after twenty years of waiting and promising and now, finally purchasing, I can honestly say that I am very pleased. There is not an ounce of buyer’s remorse with this machine. A promise kept, feels good.

Back to the present

I feel there is something special amongst us Motorcyclists, looking out there at the broad kaleidoscope of bikes; it seems that there is a machine for each of us. We are all different individuals with our own values and personalities. We all ride very different machines suitable to our tastes and lifestyles, and yet, at the core, somewhere deep down, my own personal observation over my lifetime is that whether others choose to agree with me or not, we do share a common thread. A certain quickening of the heart that our bikes provide as we approach them from across the parking lot, anticipating the imminent ride. This is in fact one of a multitude of reasons why I’ve waved to all my fellow bikers (scooters too) through the years, waving even to those bikers that I am quite certain will not return the gesture, we all share that same quickening of the heart. Buried deep down, somewhere at the foundation of our countless diversities, we share something in common. But I’m wandering off here.

We Motorcyclists, as diverse a group as we are, look upon our machines (most of the time at least) as a thing of beauty, even when others can’t possibly see it. There are many bikes out there, but none quite as perfect as the one we personally ride.


“An appellation, in his opinion, lofty, sonorous and expressive, not only of his former, but likewise of his present situation, which entitled him to the preference over all other horses under the sun.”

Miguel De Cervantes

My own Rocinante

There once was a time when my humble KLR was at the head of the pack, a time when she “ranked before all other horses.” She is my Rocinante.

A few hours have passed since I put down the book and began typing this and the rain, it hasn’t stopped. I glance at the screen, look out the window at the falling sheets, and then back at the screen. I think about the weather, and then Jeff Buchanan’s article, Quixote and Rocinante..........

To hell with it, I’m going for a ride.